Bill Would Cut Penalties for Drug

Bill Would Cut Penalties for Drug
Posted by CN Staff on March 24, 2005 at 12:55:09 PT
By Matt Frazier, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Source: Star-Telegram 
Texas -- Instead of handcuffs and jail time, people caught in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana could get a ticket and lose their driver's licenses for six months under a bill before the Legislature.House Bill 254, sponsored by state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, the category of most traffic violations. The offense is now a Class B misdemeanor.
Offenders would have to undergo drug counseling.The change would save the state millions, if not billions, in prison and court costs over the long run while giving casual marijuana users the opportunity and assistance they need to become drug-free, Dutton said."It's not a matter of being soft on crime, it's more a matter of being smart on crime," Dutton said. "This would free up the state's resources to deal with major crimes."Current law assesses the same punishment for possession of a few seeds of marijuana as it does for as much as 2 ounces.Citations for Class B misdemeanors can carry fines up to $500. The driver's license suspension was added to the penalty to comply with federal drug laws. Otherwise, the state would lose about $200 million a year in federal highway funding.The penalty would increase to a Class B misdemeanor with the third conviction.Opponents of the bill say that decreasing the penalty for possession of lesser quantities will send the wrong message and lead to greater use of marijuana."Kids already think marijuana is normal and harmless," said Castleberry High School student Erin Stubbs, a member of a county student coalition against drugs. "It's not a good idea."Many Texans do not seem to be taking that message to heart, Dutton told the Criminal Justice Committee at a recent hearing on the bill.Dutton said that according to FBI statistics, about 52,000 people were arrested in Texas on marijuana charges in 2002. Of those, 49,839, or 97 percent, were charged with simple possession of a small amount of marijuana.Prosecuting those 97 percent cost taxpayers about $490 million while straining the capacity of county jails and the caseloads of parole officers, he said.The American Civil Liberties Union and the Austin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws testified in support of the bill.Thirty-five percent of the Texans arrested for simple possession of marijuana are ages 15 to 19; people ages 20 to 24 make up 28 percent of those arrests, said Judie Niskala with NORML."Passage of House Bill 254 will assure that the youthful indiscretions of tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens will not result in the lifelong indignity and lack of opportunity that accompanies a criminal record," Niskala told committee members.The Texas Justice Court Judges Association is neutral on the bill, Collin County Justice of the Peace Terry Douglas told the committee.No one spoke against the bill at the public hearing.But at a marijuana-education workshop Tuesday, John Haenes, juvenile drug court supervisor for Tarrant County Juvenile Services, said: "We are against any decriminalization or penalty reductions. It creates a problem for us when we try to convinces youths that they should not be using marijuana."The workshop was sponsored by the Tarrant County Challenge Coalition. About 90 counselors and intervention specialists from area school districts and organizations talked about the hazards of marijuana and ways to persuade teen-agers not to use the drug. A Houston representative says his bill would save the state millions of dollars while directing casual drug users into counseling.Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)Author: Matt Frazier, Star-Telegram Staff WriterPublished: March 24, 2005Copyright: 2005 Star-TelegramContact: letters star-telegram.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Austin NORMLP.O. Box 2221Austin, TX 78767-2221Contact: Judie NiskalaE-mail: judie austinnorml.comDL: Ponders Pot Laws To Save Prison Space Resolution's Plea on Pot Penalty
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Comment #8 posted by siege on March 25, 2005 at 06:09:37 PT
Boy Shot While Playing in NW DC.
Drug Bust Made Moments Beforethis is where the govt has become the evil one in the drug trade by keeping Prohibition in place. The Prohibitionist talk about keeping kids safe so in other words this is keeping them safe to be killed by the black marketers of drugs.I would rather have them smoke a little marijuana then die. when will this craziness stop.
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Comment #7 posted by Toker00 on March 24, 2005 at 19:01:07 PT
two cents
"Kids already think marijuana is normal and harmless," So does this mean DARE has COMPLETELY failed or evidence, possibly, of GOOD PARENTING? Not advocating pot for kids here. Just honest dialog with them.Offenders would have to undergo drug counseling. So the Federal Gov. can use this lil jewel of a statistic to falsely claim addiction rate increase due to higher potency blah blah blah. LEGAL LIEING.Quite a scare here yesterday. The BP plant explosion. So sorry for the loss of life in the production of this black sin. The lockdown of the schools and the order to shelter in place are common here because of the rate of plant accidents. But it played out like a scene from NWO. Very efficient response. Guess I'm just paranoid. lol.Thanks for the heads up, Taylor121. I did my duty a few days ago. Peace. Legalize, then Revolutionize! (medicine) (energy) 
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Comment #6 posted by Taylor121 on March 24, 2005 at 18:21:21 PT
In response to your statement, I completely agree that losing your driver's license has virtually nothing to do with a marijuana offense. The reasoning for the amendment directly stems from a Federal Controlled Substance Act, that implies if you do not have this provision, they can repeal Texas's highway funding. So although it isn't a good measure, it just so happens to be a necessary one.I believe the implication is actually the marijuana has to be found in the car. As is right now, you can get charged with marijuana and as long as you are found with it in your home or such, you will not get your license revoked. I believe this bill just keeps this penalty static. If you are in Texas pain, please call in and support the amended version of the bill.
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Comment #5 posted by painwithnoinsurance on March 24, 2005 at 18:13:31 PT
Loose drivers license for not driving?
 What on earth does a drivers license have to do with possesion of marijuana? If I am understanding this nonsense correctly, a person caught walking down the street smoking a joint gets a ticket and his or her drivers license taken away. It's like saying if you are caught sneezing in public you will get a speeding ticket.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 24, 2005 at 17:32:32 PT
Here's NORML's Action Alert about Texas! Good Luck to you in Texas. Small steps are still steps to me.
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Comment #3 posted by Taylor121 on March 24, 2005 at 17:27:46 PT
I still got my fingers crossed
As the NORML letter kinda implies, support may be faltering because of the modified bill not getting enough in the way of phone calls and letters in support of it.I still hope this bill passes, but this is the first bad feeling I have had about it making it out committee. I think it may go down like it did in 2003, where it just sat there pending until the session ends, effectively killing the bill.Any other Texans out there? If you are please read FoM's paste of NORML's newest action alert and call them all. This chance comes around once every 2 years in Texas, and this year we are actually riding some momentum for this bill. So please go ahead and take the time to call and urge all the committee members to support HB 254 in its amended form. They have to know we still support the bill after the amendments.
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Comment #2 posted by lombar on March 24, 2005 at 14:33:34 PT
OT: reefer madness spawns drug hysteria
Notice how much press the latest reefer madness study is least not everyone takes what the ONDCP says as gospel.Excerpted from:"The results were crystal clear. The team found that in people with two copies of the "normal" version of COMT, smoking cannabis had little effect on their mental health. In people with one normal and one "bad" form of the gene, smoking cannabis slightly increased their risk of psychosis. But for people with two copies of the bad gene, cannabis spelled trouble: smoking it as a teenager increased their likelihood of developing psychosis by a factor of 10. The results have not yet been published, and Cannon warns that they need replicating, but even so she says "this is a very large effect, similar to the size of smoking and lung cancer. This is a very significant finding." Case, perhaps, closed.What should be done about it, however, remains an open question. Van Os advocates that teenagers with a personal or family history of mental illness be urged to steer clear of the drug. He also advocates legal changes: governments should focus on keeping cannabis out of the hands of teenagers and outlawing extra-strong varieties of cannabis, such as skunk and white widow.For Iversen though, this is still stretching the evidence. "What the data show is that the risk applies to a small minority of young people who start smoking cannabis at a very young age," he says. "Are we going to change the law for the benefit of a vulnerable minority? A small minority of people are vulnerable to liver damage if they drink even a small amount of alcohol, but we haven't changed the law to protect them.""
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 24, 2005 at 14:27:20 PT
Off Topic: New Web Site
They were talking about this web site on MSNBC and I thought others might want to check it out.
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